Like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the handing off of the broom from one green girl to another is watched with great anticipation by the legions of fans of “Wicked,” the hit musical now in its second year at the Orpheum Theatre.
Defying gravity is nothing new for Eden Espinosa, who recently donned the pointed hat of Elphaba most recently worn by Teal Wicks.
The Anaheim native was part of the show’s debut in 2003, standing by for Idina Menzel’s Tony-winning turn in the same role.
In the intervening years, she’s played the part here, on Broadway and for an extended run in Los Angeles.
“Being a standby was an interesting perspective in the beginning,” she says, “because you were a part of the cast but you were also on the outside. So I got to watch how audiences grasped the story and connected to the characters.”
There’s no sense of what-if for Espinosa in reflecting on the success that came to Menzel in a role that she herself had to be prepared to play on a moment’s notice.
“It wasn’t my journey to take,” she says. “I knew I had my own show coming and I also had a very good grasp on the reality of what my job was at the time.”
Between stints in Oz, Espinosa starred in the Broadway musical “Brooklyn” and slipped into the role of Maureen — another Idina Menzel original — for the final hurrah of the 12-year run of “Rent,” which was captured for DVD release.
“It was amazing! Life changing!” she says of that experience. “‘Rent’ was the first show I really related to, and I auditioned for it 11 or 12 times between the ages of 19 and 21.”
“Wicked” has opened in London and Australia and has also been translated for German and Japanese productions.
Espinosa, who is Mexican-American and claims to only be semi-fluent in Spanish, seems genuinely surprised at the suggestion of performing a Latina Elphaba in a show that might be called “Travieso” or “Las Brujas de Oz.”
“That would be such an interesting thing! I never really thought about it,” she says, before adding, “I think though I’d be more interested in going to see it than to be a part of it. It should go to someone who is a native of wherever it is done. I would never want to take away a job from someone who has made a name and a career for themselves in their homeland.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Best of Broadway
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; open-ended run
Tickets: $30 to $99
Contact: (415) 512-7770; www.shnsf.com